You've undoubtedly seen them -- when you request guacamole on your Chipotle burrito, or when you ask for a sprinkle of bacon bits on your salad at Greenz -- vinyl food-safe gloves covering the sweating skin of a food worker's hands.
The visual is in no way attractive but the gloves are required here in Texas and in other states like California, which recently revisited its food handling regulations making them even more restrictive. The new law bans barehanded contact with many types of foods, but is receiving pushback from chefs and other food professionals who have deemed the rules confusing, over-restrictive, un-environmentally conscious and generally a pain in the ass. Imagine sushi chefs trying to navigate the floppy folds of a neoprene glove as they delicately tuck uni into cups of seaweed, as covered in LA Weekly.
And it gets even weirder.
The LA Times reports that bartenders have been blindsided by the new regulation that mandates they can't touch ice, tinctures, or anything else that goes in your glass for a drink. Try and imagine piercing a strand of citrus peel with tiny cloves while wearing bulky gloves -- not to mention the effect on hipster fashion sense.
Fortunately for sushi and cocktails here in Dallas, Texas' code is not as strict. Food employees may not contact ready-to-eat food with their bare hands, which is why you see those gloves behind the burrito line, but they are only instructed to minimize contact with ingredients that are not ready for consumption. That means cooks can dice onions without being encumbered with gloves, and they can wash fruits and vegetables that will eventually be cooked, too.
To handle ingredients that are ready to be served to customers, food handlers have to endure a rigorous hand washing ritual that includes double washing, fingernail scrubbing with a brush and a hefty dose of hand sanitizer.
A sushi chef's work is especially tactile, requiring a delicate feel to properly bond fish to rice and skin contact to bring a piece of sushi to the perfect serving temperature, but most kitchen tasks require significant dexterity. Cooking well requires a sense of touch, and should California's laws catch on, more food service employees are going to have to learn to work without it.